While this is a great time of year to celebrate the best big songs and albums that jammed the airwaves in 2021, it's also good to shine a spotlight on some vital, underserved songs that deserve your attention.

If you've followed our Weekly Wire playlist or monthly staff picks, some of these tracks may already be familiar to you, but we'd be remiss if we didn't acknowledge these songs that deserve to be in your playlists and for some of you it may be the first introduction to these bands that could be in line as future breakouts. So jump on this now and say you knew acts such as Wet Leg, Delaire the LiarPinkshift, JJ Wilde and Orbit Culture early in their careers.

Here is where you'll find the up-and-coming bands with vibrant new music, the deeper cuts from some well known acts such as Weezer and Limp Bizkit and underrated gems from The Glorious Sons and The Wombats that we hope you'll find as repeat-play inducing as we do. So check below as we revisit 30 Rock + Metal Songs You Might Have Missed in 2021, but shouldn't and listen to all of them in our Spotify playlist here.

And for those of you looking for our other Best Of lists, check out our Best Rock + Metal Covers, Best Metal Songs, Best Rock Songs and Best Rock + Metal Albums lists for 2021.

(Contributions from Rabab Al-Sharif, Chad Childers, Joe DiVita, Todd Fooks, Graham Hartmann, Lauryn Schaffner, Mike Stern and Philip Trapp)

  • Action/Adventure, "Poser"

    Released: April 7

    With a renewed public interest in pop punk thanks in part to modern hip-hop artists, Action/Adventure just layered an anthemic banger over a hip-hop inspired video. The guys hilariously switch between trap and pop punk in their clip for “Poser,” which carries the weight of a classic pop-punk pit starter. — Graham Hartmann

  • Black River Delta, "Burning and Burning"

    Release Date: Feb. 12

    One of the year’s more impressive imports came from Swedish blues rockers Black River Delta, who dropped the stellar new album Shakin’. The highlight from said disc is the driving “Burning and Burning,” which utilizes squawking guitars and some bluesy slide mastery to distinguish itself, giving listeners a gritty head-nodder with an infectious beat. Put the foot to the metal and blare this one out while speeding down the highway. — Chad Childers

  • Blackwater Holylight, "Around You"

    Release Date: Aug. 9

    Ever feel the need to escape into a song? Portland-based rockers Blackwater Holylight certainly provide a gorgeously lush song for which to do so. Singer Allison “Sunny” Faris’ vocals melt into the sugary shoegaze melancholy, taking listeners on a blissful headphone journey that you never want to end. Kick back and enjoy. — CC

  • Blaze Bayley, "War Within Me"

    Release Date: April 9

    First off, the Iron Maiden albums with Blaze really aren’t as bad as everyone says. And if you don’t like ‘em, Blaze is not the guy to blame, so back off already — enough is enough. The singer’s solo catalog is quite a lot stronger than most are willing to realize and the title cut off his newest record, War Within Me is a fist-to-the-sky barnburner ripe with empowering words that closely resemble ‘80s KISS (a good thing in my book — Desmond Child rules). — Joe DiVita

  • Crown Lands, "The Witching Hour (Electric Witch)"

    Release Date: Sept. 16

    Let’s start by acknowledging that Crown Lands were the recipients of the Breakthrough Group of the Year award at the 2021 Canadian Juno Awards, and it was well-deserved. The duo often tell the stories of Indigenous tribes and the hardships they’ve endured in their songs, which have an epic ‘70s prog rock flavor to them. “The Witching Hour (Electric Witch)” has a grandiose chorus and complex instrumentation throughout that induces a powerful feeling of inspiration while you listen, and singer Cody Bowles’ soaring vocal range is just the cherry on top. — Lauryn Schaffner

  • Delaire the Liar, "Halloween"

    Release Date: July 19

    I found myself going back to this song again and again this year. You could even say that I’m obsessed. But it’s because you can just tell that Delaire the Liar put everything they had (emotionally and physically) into this post-hardcore throwback. The whole proceeding feels like an exorcism of sorts, pushing everything to the brink to feel catharsis after expelling some sonic demons. The (capital “S”) Scene really should have given this track a lot more attention in 2021. — Rabab Al-Sharif

  • Diskord, "Beyond the Grime"

    Release Date: Aug. 12

    Death metal often feels like an overcrowded pool that everyone has pissed in — too many bands, too many releases, too much pee pee. That said, Diskord is the first band in 2021 that made me want to jump into that pool. When’s the last time you heard an ORIGINAL guitar style in death metal? Diskord’s guitar work is extremely wonky and disjointed, but it works. It’s uncomfortable, grimy, atonal and bend-heavy. And what’s with the drummer and his random cowbell hits? Whatever… I love it. — GH

  • Fuckin' Whatever, "Original Sin"

    Release Date: April 22

    Take two parts Taking Back Sunday, one part Circa Survive and one part Grouplove and then subtract their instruments. Fuckin’ Whatever are a supergroup made up of Adam Lazzara, John Nolan, Anthony Green and Ben Homola who first connected over post Taste of Chaos tour jams that consisted solely of vocal harmonizing and finding ways to stomp or create a beat. “Original Sin” from their self-titled EP is a haunting, almost tribal track that finds Lazzara and Green trading vocal leads and comes with an undeniably great groove. — CC

  • Ghost Bath, "A Crystal Lattice"

    Release Date: Oct. 29

    Ghost Bath evince ever more classic black metal influence on Self Loather, their fourth full-length effort that emerged in October. The sonically cavernous North Dakota quintet made their early trade in blackgaze, combining shimmering guitar drone with lo-fi extreme metal. Here, they take their best progressive ideas and present them more straightforwardly. But don't worry, there's still plenty of earth-shattering shrieking from frontman Dennis Mikula, such as the squeals that color top tune "A Crystal Lattice." — Philip Trapp

  • Giovannie and the HIred Guns, "Ramon Ayala"

    Release Date: July 27

    Mexican singer-songwriter Ramon Ayala had a big influence on Giovannie Yanez’ life. His parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles all love Ayala’s music and Yanez himself likes to listen when he gets drunk. That led him to pay tribute to the singer on a new single from his band Giovannie and the Hired Guns.

    The song however has little in common with Ayala’s music. Lyrically, the chorus of “I’m just an ordinary fuck up” puts it more in line with Beck’s “Loser.” Since the song’s release the band has been playing to growing crowds all across their home state of Texas and may be ready for a breakthrough in 2022. — Mike Stern

  • The Glorious Sons, "Daylight"

    Release Date: May 19

    Fans of the Glorious Sons were probably surprised when the band dropped “Daylight,” an unexpected new song that is more intense and energetic than the band’s usual fare. After their breakthrough song “S.O.S. (Sawed Off Shotgun)” brought the two-time Juno Award winners more notoriety, this high-octane follow up was a bit of a curveball. Lead singer Brett Eamons said the song is, “the closest representation to how the band feels playing in a club,” and that the band needed to make music “completely for themselves,” which is what they did. — MS

  • Heavy Sentence, "Medusa"

    Release Date: May 27

    Hailing from the United Kingdom and resurrecting vintage NWOBHM sounds on their Bang to Rights debut are Heavy Sentence. Feeding heavily off the likes of more cult/underground acts such as Jaguar or Virtue, Heavy Sentence sound like some long-lost demo or 7” from 1981 on “Medusa,” only with some Lemmy-esque gravely wails laid over the melodic mayhem and UFO rhythm exchanges. — JD

  • In Mourning, "Sovereign"

    Release Date: Nov. 26

    Swedish melodic death metal act In Mourning give us a new batch of their doomy, proggy opuses on The Bleeding, their sixth studio album from November. Check out the multiple interlocking movements of "Sovereign," the collection's opening cut that shows the group isn’t afraid to add a dash of groove to their death metal. Some early Opeth aspects rear their head here and there, but In Mourning vocalist-guitarist Tobias Netzell makes his own tasty recipe with the ingredients, and the rest of the band matches him in effort. Check it out. — PT

  • JJ Wilde, "Someone Under You"

    Release Date: May 14

    Just because I tend to gravitate toward gritty rock songs doesn’t mean I don’t love a ballad every once in a while, and JJ Wilde knows how to hit her listeners in the damn feels. “Someone Under You” off her 2021 EP Wilde is the perfect example of her artistic versatility. Many of us, unfortunately, know what it feels like to be betrayed by someone we cared about at one point in our lives. It’s the type of sting that never really leaves us, and it’s the same sting that this song provokes. And sometimes, you need a good heartbreak song for emotional release. Grab the tissues. — LS

  • Joyous Wolf, "Fearless"

    Release Date: July 30

    Joyous Wolf are one of my absolute favorite rising rock bands. I tend to try and compare newer groups to older ones in order to describe their sound, and with these guys, I can’t, so that challenge alone makes them all the more exciting. “Fearless” is packed with high energy, rock ‘n’ roll soul and a guitar solo that proves on its own just how seriously the members of this band take their instruments. The best part is that the video doesn’t even do their live performance justice — if you’ve ever seen them play, you know exactly what I’m talking about. — LS

  • Lilith Czar, "Feed My Chaos"

    Release Date: April 23

    The first minute and nine seconds of Lilith Czar’s debut album Created From Filth and Dust is an intro track layered with sound effects and voiceovers, and it all comes to a head with successor “Feed My Chaos.”

    Firstly, we have to point out that Lilith Czar was formerly known as Juliet Simms, and while creating this album, she underwent a transformation into a badass rock ‘n’ roller. This song emphasizes that, starting off with a wail we’ve probably never heard from her before. It’s high-energy, full of chugging riffs and even a guitar solo, all complemented by the singer’s gorgeous vocals. What a way to kick off a record. — LS

  • Limp Bizkit, "Turn It Up Bitch"

    Release Date: Oct. 31

    Limp Bizkit channeling Cypress Hill? Yes, please. It's not going to win a Grammy, but this one from Bizkit’s return is an old school tribute to hip-hop's puff-out-your-chest-and-creep-in-the-5-0 glory days. Complete with shout outs to the DJ, a reference to Halo, and peppered with sound effects, “Turn It Up, Bitch” is a good one to kick back, spark up, and turn off your brain to. — Todd Fooks

  • Mason Hill, "D.N.A."

    Release Date: Jan. 15

    U.K. audiences helped make Mason Hill’s Against the Wall album the first rock debut album to crack the Top 20 since Greta Van Fleet’s 2018 arrival, and it’s easy to see why. The record is chock full of rock radio ready hook-filled gems, including their early 2021 single “D.N.A..” A pulse-racing drum heavy open gives way to muscular guitar riffs, before pulling back to more melodic verses and an anthemic chorus. It’s a track arrived at after some soul searching, seeking a little self redemption. Honestly, the album is full of choice cuts, but I’ll go with “D.N.A.” for this exercise. — CC

  • nightlife, "New Low"

    Release Date: July 9

    We live in a post-genre world where if, for instance, you love R&B, but you also find yourself wondering, “But what if this was heavy?” eventually someone will come along to fill that void in your life. Nightlife are definitely here to fill a void in the rock scene, offering a soulful, danceable earworm with djenty riffs that you won’t be able to get out of your head in the best way possible. — RA

  • NorthTale, "Future Calls"

    Release Date: Nov. 12

    Flanking guitarist Bill Hudson on this cut off NorthTale’s marvelous second album, Eternal Flame is the mighty Kai Hansen of Helloween and Gamma Ray, with his son Tim getting in on the action too. Those are some very, very capable sets of hands on this song and it shows, but we’re not only treated to Hansen’s shredding, but his iconic hellcat shriek as well, which works tremendously well in tandem with NorthTale frontman Guilherme Hirose’s piercing voice.

    This is another heaping dose of uplifting, seize-the-day positivity urging you to “Forget about the pain and change the fate to destiny” and to “Make a stand and listen when your future calls.” Life is too short to not take a chance — make the change, be your best and you might surprise yourself with what happens. — JD

  • Orbit Culture, "Mute the Silent"

    Release Date: Jan. 14

    What do you get when James Hetfield and Mikael Akerfeldt enroll their lovechild into the Gojira School of Nasty Grooves? Orbit Culture. This pummeling Swedish export masterfully blends thrash, death metal and heavy groove elements into “Mute the Silent,” a killer track that could thrust Orbit Culture into the high ranks of modern metal. Headbanging is permitted. — GH

  • Phinehas, "The Fire Itself"

    Release Date: Aug. 20

    Heavy music fans who might think metalcore is past its useful life should rock some new Phinehas tracks to relight that metalcore fire. "The Fire Itself," for an example — a single from the Solid State Records band's recent album of the same name — is a plenty incendiary metalcore jam that could figuratively singe the eyebrows off any bare-faced mosher. — PT

  • Pinkshift, "Mars"

    Release Date: April 2

    There is a reason I have continuously sung the praises of Pinkshift throughout 2021. There’s definitely something special about this Baltimore quartet who are just getting started and the world is quickly starting to recognize it. As for “Mars,” the build up, the soaring chorus, the fact that it’s another certifiable bop — pop punk is theirs. Just give it to them. — RA

  • Plebeian Grandstand, “À droite du démiurge, à gauche du néant”

    Release Date: Nov. 11

    This is the shit growing inside your shower drain; the filth you drag out after sticking a coat hanger deep into the pipes. If you’re into avant-garde black metal or violent mathematics, you won’t want to sleep on Plebeian Grandstand. You can thank Debemur Morti Productions, the world’s top label for metal as high art, for this grotesque soundscape. Seriously, subscribe to the label’s YouTube channel right away. — GH

  • Sarke, "Grim Awakening"

    Release Date: Oct. 21

    My only non-trad/power pick is Sarke’s “Grim Awakening,” but it still kind of toes that line just a bit with some ‘70s rock sensibilities against the black-tinged riffing and the familiar croak of Darkthrone vocalist Nocturno Culto. The keys offer a great atmospheric touch too and with other Norwegian metal vets amid the lineup (featuring current and past members of acts such as Khold, Tulus, Spiral Architect and Enslaved), there are identifiable components from their collective résumés but it never sounds cheap or forced. Impressive! — JD

  • Turnstile, "Mystery"

    Release Date: Aug. 27

    I just became a fan of this five-piece Baltimore hardcore outlet this year. As someone who is not into hardcore as my go-to listening choice, I think Turnstile’s combination of power, groove and easy-to-relate-to-lyrics are a winner. “Mystery” starts out with an alien-like waterfall of keyboards, then starts to rock and wonder about a long love that seems to have lost its magic. Very accessible for the uninitiated. — TF

  • The Warning, "Choke"

    Release Date: May 21

    This trio of sisters from Mexico have never taken their eyes off of the prize — becoming rock stars — and with their 2021 song “Choke” they feel ready to finally break through after years of hard work. You may remember them as the young girls who went viral covering Metallica or playing “Crazy Train” on the Ellen show, but they are ready to show the rock world that they’ve got talent, their own songs and are here to stay. I, for one, am definitely excited to see them bring some much-needed freshness to rock radio and festival bills. — RA

  • Weezer, "Sheila Can Do It"

    Release Date: May 7

    On modern-day Weezer albums, bandleader Rivers Cuomo almost always includes some callback to entice the most old school of fans. On May's Van Weezer, the veteran alt-rock act's 15th effort, that token is a studio version of "Sheila Can Do It," a Cuomo original the singer-songwriter first debuted live in 1997 with his then-solo band, Homie. It had never emerged on an official release, however, until now. Sounds like fun. — PT

  • Wet Leg, "Chaise Longue"

    Release Date: June 15

    The duo of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers definitely raised a few eyebrows with their irreverent and infinitely catchy debut track “Chaise Longue.” This sexually charged cut feels like it could have been right at home in ‘80s new wave or as part of The Strokes’ post-2010’s electro phase. A sassy deadpan vocal, a bass line that hypnotically pulls you in and a guitar-infused chorus make this a song you need to hear on repeat. After following with “Wet Dream” and “Too Late Now” later in the year, Wet Leg established themselves as a potential frontrunner for 2022 breakout act for when their self-titled debut album finally arrives. — CC

  • The Wombats, "If You Ever Leave, I'm Coming With You'

    Release Date: Aug. 16

    One of those bands that has yet to quite find a home in the States, British rockers The Wombats are set to release their new album Fix Yourself Not The World in early January. The album announcement came with the release of a new single, “If You Ever Leave I’m Coming With You,” which was inspired by the pressure Covid lockdowns put on relationships. In an interview, the band’s frontman Matthew Murphy called the song “an enjoyable punch in the face,” and said that it came from an image in his head of himself outside barbecuing, “while my wife burns all my guitars and clothes." — MS

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